Rugby: Blockbusting wing set to fly in 50th match

By Daniel Richardson

Wing Julian Savea says the Canes are keeping a lid on expectations. Photo / Getty Images
Wing Julian Savea says the Canes are keeping a lid on expectations. Photo / Getty Images

While people were asking Mark Hammett why Ardie Savea wasn't starting for the Hurricanes, his older brother Julian was going about having his best season of Super Rugby.

The barnstorming wing will bring up his 50th appearance for the franchise tonight against the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney and has been in destructive form this year for the Canes.

There's no coincidence that his recent highlight reel moments have coincided with the Hurricanes' four-match winning streak, which has seen them move to the top of the New Zealand conference.

Such consistency has been rare for the Hurricanes in the Hammett era but Savea said they had played their best rugby under their outgoing coach during the past month.

"We are playing with a lot of confidence and that's down to the preparation we are doing during the week," Savea said.

"We are not getting too far ahead of ourselves."

Savea has made 12 clean breaks this season, beaten 32 defenders and has also punched in with 12 offloads.

It seems like nobody can take the All Black off his feet and after making his debut for the Hurricanes in 2011, he said it was nice to celebrate a milestone outing.

"It's come a lot quicker than I thought," he said. "It's really special to play for the team that I've been wanting to play for all my life."

It's a team he was rumoured to be leaving last year though.

Coming off-contract, the 1.93m and 108kg specimen was linked with a move to the Crusaders but Savea said such reports were off the mark.

"I just thought about it really. I was always going to stay here, this is my home, it would have been hard for me to leave my family.

"I had a lot of things to think about. We weren't performing well in terms of the ladder and we weren't winning too many games but it's always just about finding confidence."

Winning is now part of the Hurricanes' modus operandi and they need to keep up the pace in a congested Super Rugby competition.

Nullifying the brilliance of Waratahs fullback Israel Folau will be an important task tonight but the home side have quality throughout their backline with the likes of Kurtley Beale and the versatile Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Hammett's side aren't short on attacking quality either and Alapati Leiua's long-overdue switch to second-five a month ago has proved a masterstroke given he provides considerable punch in the midfield.

The Hurricanes are the form team in Super Rugby, which is a notable change in fortunes after they opened the campaign with three straight losses.

Playoff rugby is something the side can talk about with a dose of reality now but Hammett didn't think there was any magic bullet behind their renaissance.

"It hasn't been about just clicking," Hammett said.

"It has been from week one that we've been working towards what we are trying to achieve on the field."

- APNZ

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